ServicesLives and Liveli­hoods in the Balance

Through its support of the Rayuwa initia­tive, John Deere is helping farmers in Nigeria improve their prof­itability to better weather the times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the heart of the global food inse­cu­rity caused by COVID-19 are hundreds of millions of small­holder farmers in Africa and Asia. These farmers typi­cally work with their fami­lies to grow crops on land no more than two hectares in size.

In normal times, these farmers grow upward of 80 percent of food consumed in these regions. In tough times like now, they struggle to feed them­selves and their loved ones, much less get their crops to market. Because of the vital impor­tance and vulner­a­bility of the world’s small­holder farmers, John Deere invests in programs like Rayuwa in northern Nigeria.

COVID-19 is expected to worsen the overall prospects for food secu­rity and nutri­tion. Pockets of food inse­cu­rity may appear in coun­tries and popu­la­tion groups that were not tradi­tion­ally affected. A prelim­i­nary assess­ment suggests the pandemic may add between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of under­nour­ished in the world in 2020.

Source: FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2020.  The State of Food Secu­rity and Nutri­tion in the World 2020.

Rayuwa means “life” and “liveli­hood” in the Hausa language. Working with PYXERA Global, John Deere iden­ti­fied Nigeria as a place where we could make an imme­diate and sustained differ­ence on the liveli­hoods of small­holder farmers and those they sustain.

Today, Nigeria is home to more than 200 million people. Nigeria is also one of the youngest coun­tries in the world with more than 40 percent of its popu­la­tion under 15 years of age. In 30 years, Nigeria is projected to double in size. In order for Nigeria to grow, so must its farmers.

Nigeria is also one of the youngest coun­tries in the world with more than 40 percent of its popu­la­tion under 15 years of age.

In Rayuwa, the projects stacked agro­nomic training, youth educa­tion, and volun­teerism.

Working daily with 2,500 farmers in 11 villages, Rayuwa staff estab­lished test plots to inspire and engage them.

Much like John Deere builds a stack of tech­nolo­gies to unlock value for our customers, we also build a stack of programs to enrich the lives of those we serve through our citi­zen­ship. In Rayuwa, we’ve stacked agro­nomic training, youth educa­tion, and volun­teerism. Together, these programs create the oppor­tu­nity for more prof­itable farmers in the near term, more pros­perous farm fami­lies in the near term, and a greater connec­tion to our higher purpose for our employees.


Rayuwa’s first objec­tive is to increase farmer prof­itability. Working daily with 2,500 farmers in 11 villages, Rayuwa staff estab­lished test plots to inspire and engage them. Rayuwa staff shared new agri­cul­tural prac­tices, including planting tech­niques, fertil­iza­tion, and crop protec­tion.

Mallam Surajo

One of the tests also involved hybrid seeds, which improved yields in some cases by nearly 200 percent.For the 2020 planting season, Rayuwa helped farmers like Mallam Surajo access credit to purchase these kinds of improved inputs.

I am now able to culti­vate more of my land and get very good crop yields because of the work of the Rayuwa team.” Before last year’s planting in 2019, they trained us in better ways of farming including how to plant seeds and how to apply fertil­izers, and at harvest we saw how well these new prac­tices improved yield.

Mallam Surajo

“Even though things became so diffi­cult during the pandemic, Rayuwa helped us arrange purchases of quality fertil­izers, improved seeds, and agro­chem­i­cals on credit with a bank guar­antee,” says Surajo. Despite surging extreme poverty throughout much of Nigeria, Rayuwa’s farmers increased their total earn­ings by nearly $1.3 million in 2020.


Rayuwa’s second objec­tive is to improve the educa­tional attain­ment of 4,000 village youth. Access to high-quality educa­tion inspires prof­itable farmers to send their chil­dren to school. Empow­ered by a good educa­tion, these chil­dren can become even better farmers when they grow up and enter the family busi­ness.

Ibrahim Isiyaku

As a result of Rayuwa’s inno­v­a­tive educa­tion programs, including a home-based model devel­oped in the midst of COVID-19, youth earning top scores in letter and number recog­ni­tion increased by 60 percent and 77 percent respec­tively, with a projected increase in life­time earn­ings through better educa­tion topping $1.9 million.

Rayuwa has brought a lot of improve­ment in my children’s educa­tion. Our teachers have bene­fited from the Rayuwa team and it reflects in what we now see in our chil­dren. Reading has improved so much, and they are also learning to speak and read simple English.

Ibrahim Isiyaku

Teaching even continued during the pandemic. The Rayuwa team provided Commu­nity Educa­tion Workers in the village with mobile phones so they could remain in contact with the Rayuwa educa­tion experts. This enabled them to continue providing limited home-based lessons to village chil­dren. “COVID-19 has had a lot of nega­tive impacts, but here we count our bless­ings,” notes Ibrahim. “We are grateful that none of Rayuwa’s support to our farms and our chil­dren fully stopped during the lock­down.


Rayuwa’s third objec­tive is to engage John Deere volun­teers. In October 2019, a group of John Deere volun­teers trav­eled to Rayuwa to help in the program’s launch.

The impact of this expe­ri­ence for John Deere’s volun­teers is best summed up by Jean Elloh, Divi­sional Sales Manager: “For me, it was a priv­i­lege to have been part of the Rayuwa volun­teer expe­ri­ence.

Jean Elloh, Divi­sional Sales Manager (left) says: “For me, it was a priv­i­lege to have been part of the Rayuwa volun­teer expe­ri­ence.”

Beyond contributing toward a project that aims to trans­form lives, from a personal stand­point, the expe­ri­ence reminded me of what I will call ‘my unique journey.’ Hearing the plights of the fami­lies in commu­ni­ties we visited took me back into time. I could iden­tify with all the chal­lenges the commu­ni­ties recounted.

The volun­teer program afforded me the oppor­tu­nity to contribute to improving liveli­hoods, to connect with nature through maize and rice harvesting expe­ri­ences, and to bond with fellow volun­teers, including the on-ground Rayuwa project team as well as the PYXERA Global team. It’s an awesome feeling to belong to a company that is committed to farmers regard­less of their back­grounds.”